Two weeks, hundreds of bombing Gaza, thousands of missiles on Israel that were largely intercepted, 232 deaths on the Palestinian side and 11 deaths on the Israeli side. The cold figures of a grim conflict that, although the warring parties claim otherwise, only has losers.
It has something like a déjà vu. After the wars between Israel and Hamas in 2009 and 2014 you could have written the above, although the details and the exact cause of the conflict may differ.
there been a change in the balance of power this time and is this ‘a genuine opportunity to make progress’, as US President Biden said last night? We‘ll ask three correspondents.
“ In Gaza, the underlying situation has not changed, and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade makes it worse,” says correspondent Ties Brock. “There is a lack of clean drinking water, sky-high unemployment and Hamas has a repressive regime.”
The problems are aggravated by the thousands of homes that have now been destroyed, making countless families homeless.
Brock went back to the street in East Jerusalem where the tension flared up:
Israel believes it had thrown Hamas back in time years by killing many militants and destroying a military infrastructure, such as the tunnel network under Gaza. Hamas also claims a victory, because with their missiles they have reached Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and they can present themselves as defender of the Palestinian cause.
Ironically, they did not weaken each other, but perhaps helped in the saddle, Brock thinks: “There would be elections in the Palestinian territories for the first time in 15 years. President Abbas postponed it, officially because Israel would not allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem. But the suspicion is because he was in bad shape in the polls. He was a spectator during this conflict, many Palestinians feel abandoned and Hamas has become more popular.”
Netanyahu longer in power?
The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu also seems to stay in power for longer. He is a suspect in several corruption cases, and in the last two years, four elections have not yielded a stable government. But as long as Netanyahu remains prime minister, he probably stays out of jail, too.
The opposition, even with an Arab party, seemed to reach an agreement on a government without Netanyahu. Until Hamas fired missiles at Jerusalem. Brock: “That potential coalition is not aligned when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so the parties withdrew.”
Now there is a great chance for another election, and until then Netanyahu remains prime minister. Right parties accuse Netanyahu of having dealt with Hamas too soft in the meantime. Talking about a structural peace between Israel and Palestinians does not seem to be the case for the time being.
For the Arab world, this conflict was a way for countries to profile themselves, or rather a split, says correspondent Daisy Mohr. Egypt took a leading role towards it by mediating between Israel and Hamas. Mohr: “Historically, Egypt does so more often, in 2014 a truce was also created with the help of Egypt.”
Egypt likes to cast itself as the leader of the Arab world. The country regularly refers to Cairo as the seat of the Arab League, and their mediating role helps in their diplomatic ambition.
Following the ceasefire, US President Biden commended Egypt and President Sisi, who “played a critical role with his diplomacy”.
For Sisi very nice to hear, Mohr says: “Sisi was called Trump’s most beloved dictator, but among Biden the relationship is different, with more attention to human rights. So that Biden praises Sisi now is profit for him.”
For other Arab countries, breathing is especially relieved. Last year, standardisation agreements were signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. The Palestinians saw it as a betrayal, because Arab countries were precondition for normalizing relations with Israel only if there was a Palestinian state.
In the reactions to the violence of the Israeli side you saw the struggle in those countries well, according to Mohr: “The tone was different than in 2014, for example. For these countries this conflict felt very uncomfortable.”
When the agreements were concluded, it was said to the very pro-Palestinian people that this would make it possible to put pressure on Israel to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. Mohr: “That does not appear to be the case now.”
Among the population in Arab countries there is little of Biden‘s hope forstructural peace regain. “In all the conflicts here in the region, one thinks: ‘see first and then believe‘.”
The United States is always a very important player in the Middle East. And for Biden, this conflict was “a litmus test”, says correspondent Marieke de Vries: “Trump was of course completely pro-Israel and the Democrats have traditionally been too. But there is increasing pressure from the left flank of the Democrats for a more critical noise against Israel.”
Politicians on this side used the word apartheid to describe the treatment of the Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. They did so in the pursuit of human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, which came up with a very critical report on Israel in April.
But Biden did not bow to that pressure. At least not in public. Behind the scenes, however, pressure was exerted by phone calls with Netanyahu. In general, Biden announced that Israel has the right to defend itself, the old adage of America when it comes to Israel.
De Vries: “America has a warm heart to Israel because of its Jewish people, but do not forget that Israel is America’s most important ally in the Middle East. Israel is a strategic partner of the US, against opponents such as Iran-backed militias in Syria.”
Whether the US wants to intervene more actively in an active long-term solution is but the question, says De Vries. The United States wants to interfere less with hotspots in the Middle East. Significant is that until a few days ago Biden mainly called for sustainable calm: sustainable rest.
De Vries: “This conflict was not on his priority list. Whether this conflict brings the Israeli-Palestinian question back to its radar is to be seen.”
Israeli ambassador Naor Gilon and the representative of Palestinian Authority Rawan Sulaiman told us this evening in Nieuwsuur how they look at the ceasefire: